Does the X Block Work?

The Oft Maligned X Block

Reader James posted the following,

In Dagger Disarms part 1 they show only two blocks that “should never” be done in the real world. Note that they show only one photo for each and do not show or are aware of the follow through of these techniques they say not to do. The X-block in Jujutsu is a soft block, it does not hold the arm there but merely receives the arm and then moves it to the side as the force is coming down.

You see, in the Filipino martial arts, the X block has got a bad rap, probably even worse than that of the maligned judo chop. I think the Dan Inosanto Filipino Martial Arts book helped to bury the X block. The average Filipino martial artist can show you a dozen counters to the X block, especially when used against a knife.

Years ago in the Philippines I met Perry Gamsby, an Australian who had moved to the PI. He was telling me how on his first day on the job as a security guard, he ended up chasing a thief through the market. The thief suddenly whirled, drew a large knife, and thrust it up toward Perry’s stomach.

“I blocked the knife with an X block,” Perry told me with a laugh. “The one they tell you never works.”

Now one possibility is that the story isn’t true, but I believe it. But how do we explain the fact that an X block, which isn’t supposed to work, did in fact stop a knife attack?

I think the reason may be that when we train we are fencing. When I have the training knife, I am light on my feet. I may feint, withdraw, then leap back in to “cut” your extended arm. As trained fighters we are both doing this sort of strategy. We are cagey, tactical, mobile, elusive.

X Block: Fact or Fiction?

But what happens when I see someone brutally attacking my mother and there is a knife in my hand? Tactics, feinting, double thrusts, evasion, etc., all go out the window. I am not thinking of counter moves. I now have what Amo Guro Blackgrave refers to as “intent.” The person in this frame of mind (enraged kill) is stronger, but also, his moves are more committed, and although they are more likely to be fatal, they may also be easier to counter.

How many people say the knife can’t be countered bare-handed? I certainly advise against it, because we’ve all seen how poorly real counter-knife scenarios go down in training. Yet we also know that there are people who have survived knife attacks bare-handed, so it can be done. Maybe the reason for the seeming contradiction is the difference between dueling in training and intent-to-kill on the streets.

5 Responses to “Does the X Block Work?”

  1. In The Dog Brothers’ DLO1 video series they teach a technique called “The Dog Catcher” as a counter to a Prison yard rush type of attack. There are details and nuances, but I have trained with some of these guys, using this technique against a live opponent with intent and it works. It involves an “X Block”. It isn’t 100% (nothing ever is, if you want a guarantee, buy a toaster), but it is effective. Raymond Floro also teaches a variation of this concept and I have used it in training to great effect.

  2. Tommy,

    The DVD’s you mentioned are on my shopping list.

    The Ray Floro stuff I’ve seen looked impressive.

  3. If one understand the X he will realize it isn’t a block but rather a transitionary placement of intent manifested through your empty hand shield. If you commit to X only then your doomed but if you understand X then Y is a feasible action!

  4. As many have already stated- The X is a very important element when placed in the proper context of flow.
    It actually links back to indigenous weapon use.
    It is a snapshot of the pattern flow.
    I teach how it translates when using shield, stick/dagger, long weapons like a kampilan, and spear. MB is spot on when he mentions the empty hand shield, a shield that is not merely a receiver but actively funneling to the advantage of its user.

  5. Well, as the bloke who used the X block that very memorable day, I can tell you it did happen and it did work. Having said that, the thrust was upwards and I believe the edge was down, so even if he pulled back rapidly on contact with my block it wouldn’t have been a problem, not that I had the time to decide, just react. Second, as the man above said, the block is a transition, between the knife moving and the knife being redirected and controlled. The man attacked with intent and he drove the knife up and at my stomach. As soon as the block caught his thrust I redirected it to the side, away from me, then controlled the weapon hand as I used the plate glass window of the store to help me subdue the bloke. I didn’t pause and wait for applause or some guy awarding me the point.

    When I say intent, I think his intent was to stab me and then escape. If his intent was to kill me then it might have been a very different story, who knows? As an FMA guy myself I know when we train we are light and we are fencing and we can do wonderful things. But when it is real the focus narrows and the force used commits the weapon far more than when we are sparring or training.

    Be nice to each other, Perry Gamsby

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